linear fills question

bud7h4

Silver Member
Do you always incorporate memorized patterns, or do you sometimes completely improvise linear fills? I'm referring to longer fills, like a 16th note fill over 2 or 3 bars.
 
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toddbishop

Platinum Member
The more elaborate high speed things I keep seeing people do in youtube videos generally seem to be memorized licks. I don't do that, I improvise, using pretty simple patterns-- combinations of RLB, RLBB, RLRLB, maybe RLRLBB. RLRL-BRLB is an easy combination to do fast, and it sounds good, and I never play it because I don't want to be that on-purpose about it.

I've written a bunch of pages of Gary Chaffee's linear patterns in various meters and rhythms, if you need something to practice.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Re fills in general - and beats, too - many are memorized, while others come to me spontaneously (or by accident) in the moment. Some drummers have a thing about playing a part or fill more than once, but I'm not really sure why. I don't know if it's an "I must always evolve and grow" thing, or if they just don't know what they want. Unfortunately, the inherent danger in not knowing what you want, is that you also don't know when you've got something good. It's a constant search as opposed to a genuine evolution. I think that if a fill or beat sounds good to my ear, it's worth playing. Again, and again, and again. I have a large library of such parts, and take joy in selecting from that library when playing. So I may not actually play the same fill in the same place in a song, however it's most likely one of several fills in an eligible rotation for that song.

But sometimes I don't nail a fill quite as intended, and it ends up being pretty cool anyway. That variation then becomes part of my library. On rare occasions, I set out to invent something new, but that seldom ends well. :O

Bermuda
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
I don't do that, I improvise, using pretty simple patterns-- combinations of RLB, RLBB, RLRLB, maybe RLRLBB. RLRL-BRLB is an easy combination to do fast, and it sounds good, and I never play it because I don't want to be that on-purpose about it.
You can take this approach (if you're actually a very good drummer like TB), but the gospel guys will first develop quick 4 or 6 note patterns, and, once those have been developed to high speed, start to recombine those pieces in different orders. So, it's partially improvisation, and partially practiced licks. You're basically pulling well-rehearsed tricks out of your back pocket, and assembling them on-the-fly into new combinations.

For instance, you can take these licks:

RLRR
LRLL
FFRL
RRLR
LRLL
FRLF
RLRL
FRLF

Put them in exactly that order, and you get a linear fill. Obviously, you can't just mix up the order randomly and expect to get a good fill. Certain pieces start with a left hand or a foot, and so those should be combined with pieces that don't end with a left hand or foot note (unless you're trying to get really sneaky).
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Some drummers have a thing about playing a part or fill more than once, but I'm not really sure why. I don't know if it's an "I must always evolve and grow" thing, or if they just don't know what they want.
This seems to be a common thing. Limiting your fill choices will definitely force you to come up with new ones. But it doesn't take into account why the fill is there in the first place.

The fill played should depend on the purpose of the fill. Sometimes the fill is a not really a fill, but instead a "part" -- the song relies on it, and listener expects to hear a specific thing from the drums. But sometimes a fill really is just a fill: a way to fill space and/or create tension in the music. In this case, the style of fill depends on the overall style of the song, the expectations of the audience, and the particular energy of the ensemble performing the tune. It takes a certain musical maturity to know the difference.
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
It depends.. In my band I tend to write a part and continue playing that not not very it to much. The album and what I play live are similar.. SOMETIMES I will add something but it's usually not random. I'm sure we have all got that brain freeze when making something up mid fill before, or ending up on the wrong hand etc.


When jamming out, writing material, or solo playing I make up linear stuff all the time... I will explain.

I practice alot of groups of 3,5 and 7

so examples of 3
Rlk, rLk, RLk, kRl, krL, Rll

some 5
RlRll RlRlK, rrllk

7
RlRlRlk RlRlRll and so one


I will practice these in all different time signatures and tempos and move em all over the kit.

So, I am not "making stuff up" when I play, but it isn't pre determined if that makes sense. I am comfortable enough with the patterns from repetition that it will come out. The drums I hit may change.

keeping it simple, using 4/4. Take a full measure fill. in 16th notes you have 16 notes. (Probably not a fill for a pop song I know, but just for an example, this would work for a half measure fill changing it to 8 as well)

so you need 2 groups of 7 and a group of two. or two groups of 5 and two groups of 3 etc. I don't count this in my head because I have played them until it feels natural, but you could literally write all the patterns down, put em in a 3 hats, and figure out a number that makes 8/16.... if you grabbed 2 7's you would just need to add 2 strokes after for a full measure....

once you do that you can start adding rests and space.

I made these a bit ago, there is a few screwups but it gives an idea of what I do to practice it.. All the playing I did was on the spot. I didn't predetermine anything. I just had things like Rlk Rll etc written down on paper for the video.

groups of 3
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upDopGqeFSg
groups of 5
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djYAE9pJFRM
groups of 7
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_v-pVARpxf0

once you start changing the time signature, using triplets, and going down this rabbit hole you can really change your drumming.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
This seems to be a common thing. Limiting your fill choices will definitely force you to come up with new ones. But it doesn't take into account why the fill is there in the first place.

The fill played should depend on the purpose of the fill. Sometimes the fill is a not really a fill, but instead a "part" -- the song relies on it, and listener expects to hear a specific thing from the drums. But sometimes a fill really is just a fill: a way to fill space and/or create tension in the music. In this case, the style of fill depends on the overall style of the song, the expectations of the audience, and the particular energy of the ensemble performing the tune. It takes a certain musical maturity to know the difference.
Sometimes, instead of playing a non-essential/signature fill, I'll just play the beat straight through, not even a crash on the 1. That non-fill is also a fill of sorts, and can set-up the next section in a cool way. Deciding to not fill is a very spontaneous decision though, I don't set-out at the start of the song with the idea that coming out of the solo, I won't do a fill. So I am always thinking, but it's always with the best parts & fills in mind. If it's a signature fill, I do it the 'correct' way every time, without fail, and take great pride knowing that I'm serving the music.

Bermuda
 

Alex Sanguinetti

Silver Member
Do you always incorporate memorized patterns, or do you sometimes completely improvise linear fills? I'm referring to longer fills, like a 16th note fill over 2 or 3 bars.
As you might guess memorized patters is a more ground/basic approach than the second (improvise). The second is product of a deeper process. Needs lots of practice mixing up randomly, complet command on "where you are" at every stroke, "prehearing" stuff, etc.

If you want to sound fresh (and SPECIALLY to yourself) the second is the way to go...
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Warning, opinion only:

It's funny how priorities differ. Everyone is entitled to play how they choose. Me, I never think about fills. My style of playing...I don't think in those terms. The musicians around me...they don't want fills from me. What they want is a great beat, at the right tempo, at the right volume dynamic. They want me to not step on the vocal, and bring the right energy to the song. If I do only that, they're happy. Never have I heard...hey Larry could you busy it up a little?

I think drummers tend to place too much priority on their fills, like it's the very pinnacle of what they do, which to me is backwards. IMO, if the song really required/needed a fill.. and would be lesser without it...then that fill probably works really well. Hey I love fills that serve an actual musical purpose, and that work beautifully...as opposed to a drummer who has to clutter the song with fills "because the guitar player gets to blow chops all night". That's just wrong. If the song didn't require a fill but the drummer inserted a fill in anyway....I have to ask what is the reason for the fill.

Fills are not the reason I drum. I do not drum for me, I drum for everyone else. Why? Results. It gets the results I'm after. You could almost label me anti fill. Of the top 10 things I do playing drums, fills are 10th. Any fills I do play are short, sweet and to the point. I'm a "less is more" type drummer so naturally fills are a low priority for me. I like space and air in my music. I'm not saying that fills should be a low priority for anyone else. I'm simply putting another approach out here.

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that the biggest reason amateur drummers place big priorities on the fill...I contend it's mainly ego based. They want to "look cool" for maybe pulling off a tricky fill. That could be the biggest pitfall there is, playing to try to look cool.

What I've found is if you are onstage, you're already cool, you don't have to prove it. When someone tries to "be cool" when they are already cool, it backfires. It's insecure. If a drummer focuses on the song and the others first...and not the drum part only... the drummer will get everything they are seeking
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
I agree Larry you can step all over the music and other players getting carried away with fills, but used tastefully-and as needed-they can really enhance too. Also a fill doesn't have to be complicated-but just a highlight or nuance with a single note on one tom. Now for me to take my own advice LOL.
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
Sometimes, instead of playing a non-essential/signature fill, I'll just play the beat straight through, not even a crash on the 1. That non-fill is also a fill of sorts, and can set-up the next section in a cool way. Deciding to not fill is a very spontaneous decision though, I don't set-out at the start of the song with the idea that coming out of the solo, I won't do a fill. So I am always thinking, but it's always with the best parts & fills in mind. If it's a signature fill, I do it the 'correct' way every time, without fail, and take great pride knowing that I'm serving the music.

Bermuda

I like this though. More often its what you DON"T play that makes the music. A solid groove for a whole song will never get you in trouble, even if you don't play a single fill or crash... You go over the top on one fill and you risk ruining the song completely or standing out at least.

I actually tried this in my band last night.. I have one fill I over used in a few songs so rather than change it I just kept the beat going over that spot and it felt and sounded awesome.. Maybe I'm maturing haha.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
I practice alot of groups of 3,5 and 7

so examples of 3
Rlk, rLk, RLk, kRl, krL, Rll

some 5
RlRll RlRlK, rrllk

7
RlRlRlk RlRlRll and so one
This is the Gary Chaffee approach (who taught Tony Williams, Steve Smith, and Vinnie Colaiuta), which is taught in the Technique Patterns book. This is NOT what most of the gospel players are doing; they are playing quick patterns of 4 (as 32nds or 16ths) and 6 notes (as sextuplets), most often, not too many 3s, 5s, and 7s. However, the 3s can be combined into groups of 6, to be played as sextuplets.

Both approaches are worthwhile of course, but the gospel approach is more downbeat oriented and less "jagged" (syncopated). This is a good thing! It means you can play super flashy stuff, without throwing off your band too badly. The fundamental difference is that the Chaffee approach teaches you to play odd groupings, while the gospel approach relies on even groupings.
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
There is a time and place though. Everything in context

In a band setting too many fills, to long of fills, too crazy of fills are terrible. If I'm playing in a blues gig, or to some straight forward song and you start doing some beat displacement and modulation because you think your going to look badass your wrong.

On the other hand, when I am in my bassment jamming out to spotify or music I LOVE doing that stuff. or even just playing solo on the kit in my bassment. I really do enjoy over playing and doing fills when no one is around / soloing. Would I do this on stage? no.

My genera of music calls for shredding guitars and the drums are really up front with blast beats and double bass so If I do an over the top every 8-16 bars I blend right in.. Even still I try to hold back.


I was going to state to OP.. tempo of the song often decides for me if its a memorized pattern. If I'm playing metal at 230 BPM you better believe its a simple memorized fill I have done 1000x as my brain doesn't work that fast... If I am grooving out to some nice slow funk I can change it up on the fly and not worry. Once you have the muscle memory down for the patterns I just hear it in my head and play it in real time.
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
This is the Gary Chaffee approach (who taught Tony Williams, Steve Smith, and Vinnie Colaiuta), which is taught in the Technique Patterns book. This is NOT what most of the gospel players are doing; they are playing quick patterns of 4 (as 32nds or 16ths) and 6 notes (as sextuplets), most often, not too many 3s, 5s, and 7s. However, the 3s can be combined into groups of 6, to be played as sextuplets.

Both approaches are worthwhile of course, but the gospel approach is more downbeat oriented and less "jagged" (syncopated). This is a good thing! It means you can play super flashy stuff, without throwing off your band too badly. The fundamental difference is that the Chaffee approach teaches you to play odd groupings, while the gospel approach relies on even groupings.

Well my first question is who wouldn't want to play like Tony Williams, Steve Smith, and Vinnie Colaiuta? hahahaha

I love the jaggged syncopated stuff personally, but I am interested about the gospal stuff.

Got any links to books, lessons, videos explaining this?
or are you just saying do the same thing with 4 and 6?

like rlkk, rlrlkk, rllk, and so on?
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I like this though. More often its what you DON"T play that makes the music. A solid groove for a whole song will never get you in trouble, even if you don't play a single fill or crash... You go over the top on one fill and you risk ruining the song completely or standing out at least.

I actually tried this in my band last night.. I have one fill I over used in a few songs so rather than change it I just kept the beat going over that spot and it felt and sounded awesome.. Maybe I'm maturing haha.
Ding ding! It sounds so good to resist temptation. It builds tension. It sounds fresh because too many drummers simply won't play straight through an opportunity where they could "legally" play more notes.

There is a time and place though. Everything in context

In a band setting too many fills, to long of fills, too crazy of fills are terrible. If I'm playing in a blues gig, or to some straight forward song and you start doing some beat displacement and modulation because you think your going to look badass your wrong.

On the other hand, when I am in my bassment jamming out to spotify or music I LOVE doing that stuff. or even just playing solo on the kit in my bassment. I really do enjoy over playing and doing fills when no one is around / soloing. Would I do this on stage? no.

My genera of music calls for shredding guitars and the drums are really up front with blast beats and double bass so If I do an over the top every 8-16 bars I blend right in.. Even still I try to hold back.


I was going to state to OP.. tempo of the song often decides for me if its a memorized pattern. If I'm playing metal at 230 BPM you better believe its a simple memorized fill I have done 1000x as my brain doesn't work that fast... If I am grooving out to some nice slow funk I can change it up on the fly and not worry. Once you have the muscle memory down for the patterns I just hear it in my head and play it in real time.
Good stuff man, all around.
The thing about fills...I do play what people call fills obviously, but to me they aren't fills, they are parts of the song. To me the very term fill sounds gratuitous. To me a "fill" is a necessary drum figure used as a transition, a set up, a cool down, a segue...something. It HAS to serve some purpose. Playing a fill because it's hard to do... is not nearly a good enough reason for me to do it.

Now if it's tricky and necessary, it serves a purpose, then of course, by all means. It's the necessary part that is the real consideration. Is it part of the song? Or is it extra fluff?

IDK I just see drummers protecting their "right to fill" with great fervor, and they think if they couldn't fill, then they are relegated to grunt slave labor lol. I think that a lot of drummers unhealthily tie their "right to fill"...the one thing that drummers "have"...with their creativity. Like if they weren't allowed to fill, they couldn't put their "stamp" on the song. They couldn't be creative. I definitely get that feeling about the relationship between drummers and their fills. An overly notey drummer will justify it by saying that guitarists get to "fill" all night long. That doesn't sit with me on a few levels, but I guess they have that right, whatever.

I say let all that go and don't let your "right to fill" control your mindset. Generally speaking, no one cares about unnecessary fills but drummers, and inappropriate fills can actually accomplish the opposite of what your desired outcome is. Filling does not equal creativity. You control the fills don't let your "right to fill" hijack your big picture. I'm not anti fill, I just think they are musical dynamite and have to be handled with great care, not thrown about willy nilly.

What was the question again :)
 

bud7h4

Silver Member
Larry, just to clarify, I'm not talking about the usual rock hero fills, tom rolls, etc. Take a look at any of Lindsay's posts (lindsayannemusic) to see exactly the type of linear fills I mean. Absolutely gorgeous sounding beats and fills, with lots of doubles and alternating right/left hand leads.

These are the type of fills I was wondering how many people can improvise, because I know most of the time they are memorized (with good reason).
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Well my first question is who wouldn't want to play like Tony Williams, Steve Smith, and Vinnie Colaiuta? hahahaha
Gospel players, apparently! The linear idea has been expanded by this style of playing, since Chaffee first developed it (Alan Dawson was teaching it too).

I love the jaggged syncopated stuff personally, but I am interested about the gospal stuff.

Got any links to books, lessons, videos explaining this?
or are you just saying do the same thing with 4 and 6?

like rlkk, rlrlkk, rllk, and so on?
Yes, those, plus more. See my example above. To generate the "pieces", a common method is to start with a rudiment, and replace one or more hand notes with kick notes. For example:


RRLL becomes FRLF
RLRLRR becomes RLRLFF
RLLRRL becomes RFFRFL
LRLRLL becomes KRLRKK

Another method is to displace the pattern first, then substitute the kick notes in to the displaced version:

RRLL becomes RLLR then RLLK
LRLLRR first becomes RRLRLL then KKLRKK

Some of the pieces can be repeated comfortably, and some can't.

Search YouTube for "gospell fill" and learn some examples to get you started. You'll see some (if not all) of these pieces contained in the fills. When you're learning, imitation is your friend.
 

Alex Sanguinetti

Silver Member
...These are the type of fills I was wondering how many people can improvise, because I know most of the time they are memorized (with good reason).
I can improvise, no problem, it´s about having a precise knowledge of the "longitude" you want to fill up, knowledge of "where you" are in the measure at every beat you make, having technical command on the figures you are playing, etc.


Those guys, Bruner, Hawkins, Pridgen, etc. (just to name a few of the so many that can) are VERY AWARE OF THIS and they improvise all the time, do not doubt about it!
 
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